Vanity Mirror – PUFF (Q&A)

We are acquainted with Brent Randall and Johnny Toomey due to their prior work in The Electric Looking Glass. Presently, they have collaborated to establish a new band named Vanity Mirror. Their debut album “PUFF” is overflowing with remarkably captivating melodies that evoke the sweet, nostalgic sounds of the sixties and seventies. If you appreciate the music of The Kinks and Sparks alike, then the ten endearingly eccentric and contagious pop tracks on the album will undoubtedly bring you happiness.

I am happy!

Brent Randall explains how it came about.

How did this record come together?

I had quite a backlog of songs that I was waiting to record for a while. And then I realized what am I waiting for? So I just started demoing and tracking things with the limited home studio I had. So a lot of the sounds were wonky but I was just enjoying the process of sketching out ideas. At one point I considered these songs to be possible for another group we play in, Electric Looking Glass. So, naturally, I sent them to Johnny (who also plays in that group) to lay down drums.

He laid down drums and percussion and flipped that back to me. Soon it all started coming together and we realized that these were no longer demos or rough sketches but an album. We didn’t want to go somewhere and create “good versions” or chase the demo (“demoitis”) We realized any imperfections is really what gave it personality.

And so PUFF was born!

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

Around the time we had rough mixes of everything and we started floating the idea of presenting these recordings as an album I did share it with a few trusted friends. They gave really positive feedback which gave us the confidence to move forward with it. I’d say the record was 98% done at the moment. I don’t really like sharing unfinished things. A few trusted people I know who have the right ear but generally I like to wait until things are ready.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

Honestly, it’s already a success in that it exists and people seem to genuinely resonate with it. The world is so saturated with content I think as an artist you have to see the simple completion or manifestation of your vision in itself a success! That being said I’d like to see the 1st vinyl pressing sell out. That for me would be a success.

What’s the best song you ever wrote?

For me it’s “Happily Ever After” which is the last song on this album. It’s very simple but I think the melody, chords, lyrics and production all align to create a very real feeling which people can resonate at an instant. And it all came together really quickly. I’ve probably written more musically clever or catchier songs or have done more sparkly productions but for me a simple song that can capture a real feeling is always the test.

As an artist, you choose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

I used to struggle with this a lot but it has gotten much easier over the past year. I think it’s the key to having any artistic success.

I used to really try and shy away from revealing too much or try to hide things and it really hinders the process. If you have any hope of people resonating with your work it has to be real and vulnerable. But it is very difficult. But therapeutic This is also the sole purpose of a song really, to me, so it’s really so important. Leaning into the discomfort. I’m always uncomfortable.

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Jad Fair because he has a freeform, childlike wonder and directness that just explodes from everything he does. Really admirable creative energy and instincts. Not too fussy and really effortless and natural.

Joanna Sternberg who is a contemporary singer songwriter who I really admire. Again a very personal, effortless way with melody and lyrics that is so inspiring and refreshing. Every word and note seems so perfect, so understated yet so important. I’d be delighted to co-write.

Mo Troper is another current songwriter who I admire. He writes great power pop jams that also have heart. Often in the power pop world you things that sound like an exercise in executing the genre with no humanity in there. Mo seems to execute the nostalgic power pop riffs with a song that can still melt you on an emotional level.

How do you balance experimentation with commercial appeal in your music?

Rarely think of either. Usually I just have a vision I want to achieve and so every recording is just an attempt to capture something. Some attempts are more successful and then others. I put them out to share them and see if anyone else resonates with them but never really am too concerned with commercial appeal or experimentation.

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

I’m a Lonesome Little Raindrop – Tiny Tim

Who Has Seen the Wind – Yoko Ono

Night After Night – Dolly Mixture

Why I Didn’t Like August 93 – Elevator to Hell

Hey Joe – Daniel Johnston

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?

Can’t stand it!

If you could pick three singers to sing harmony vocals on your next record, who would you ask?

There’s a duo called The A’s right now from North Carolina I think who are just marvelous singers so them for sure!

Possibly Flo & Eddie from The Turtles & Mother of Invention. Incredible singers who’ve rocked so many classic records.

I think Flo has a vegetarian restaurant too so that could come in handy.

And then maybe Mo Tucker because I love her voice.

The record is done, the music is out. Is the best fun done now or is it just beginning?

The best fun is done – for me records are always number one! The recording process. But the other stuff is good too 🙂

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